The Caracazo were a series of protests that took place in Venezuela in 1989. They began on February 27 in response to a package of economic measures, such as the increase in fuel prices, promoted by then President Carlos Andrés Pérez. “It lasted three days, but they were very strong,” describes the riots Alonso Moleiro, a Venezuelan journalist who has just published the book The uncivil nation. The Caracazo, its consequences and the end of democracy (Dahbar Publishers). “I think it was an event that forged the political apparatus of Hugo Chávez Frías”, continues the author, “with the Caracazo Chavismo builds a political discourse, a thesis with an impact on the population and on people’s daily lives”.
With the book, Moleiro tries to “locate the moment in which Venezuela lost its way and lost its way as a nation,” he explains. Hence the adjective uncivil. “I wanted to establish the keys to the Venezuelan collapse and the current drift,” says the journalist shortly after presenting his book in Madrid, on Wednesday, May 25, at Casa de América, where he was accompanied by Javier Moreno, former director of EL PAÍS and current director of the UAM-EL PAÍS School of Journalism and fellow Venezuelan writer Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez. The act hung the full capacity sign. “In Madrid there is a Venezuelan public, which has lived with great intensity everything that we have had to live in this time,” says Moleiro. “In addition, Spain accommodates this type of Latin American debate,” he adds.
“Carlos Andrés Pérez, president at the time, launched a liberal-inspired economic program that included market deregulation or free exchange. Then began a debate that cracked the political consensus in Venezuela, a model that had been quite economically successful for several decades,” explains the author, who includes the revolts that responded to Pérez’s plan within the “founding script of the Chavista narrative.”
“When the Caracazo takes place, Chávez decides that it is time to act. He leads the coup in 1992. And a few years later [en 1999] stands for election. At that time, it seems that people wanted an avenger and he came. In addition, his anti-Yankee message generated sympathy in some places, such as Europe, ”he explains. “Many people believed that Chávez was a Democratic leader; they thought it was the possibility of regenerating democracy. They were wrong. Chávez was the first great charismatic populist of this time. Later others have appeared ―Trump, Jörg Haider… ―, but he was the first”, adds Moleiro, launching a warning: “If you don’t defend democracy, it can fail; Democracy must be defended, otherwise it will come crashing down”. The author also links the origin of class conflict in Venezuela with those revolts at the end of the eighties: “Chávez wanted the poor to be with him. Venezuela functioned at the end of the eighties with a closed, rentier, statist oil State model, which had entered into a crisis. The elites did not want to assess the true impact of the outbreak and the social unrest.”
The journalist describes the current situation in his country as “dictable”: “You can do some things. But others don’t. You can publish a book like the one I have published, but I could not go to speak on the radio or television. He also laments the weakness of the Venezuelan opposition: “They have not managed to defeat populism or give us the keys to avert this tragedy. There is weakness in his narrative.” Despite this, Moleiro considers that the current president and successor to Chávez, Nicolás Maduro, is “easily defeatable” in a normal election. But he warns that he has deepened the methods of control: “he is coarser. He has repressed more than Chavez and more cruelly. His lack of political talent has forced him to repress”.
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